From Welcome Week to a Presidential Performance

By Anna Haritos

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Lauryn Hobbs had been a student in Ann Arbor for less than three weeks this past September, when the freshman in the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance, suddenly found herself singing in front of President Barack Obama.

Lauryn was the opening act of the night.

“It was amazing,” she said of performing at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s (CBCF) 46th Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner on Sept. 17 in Washington, D.C.  The ceremony, attended by some 4,000 people, pays tribute to those who have positively impacted the African-American experience in the United States. President Obama was the keynote speaker.

 

“There were people there that I’ve looked up to for a long time,” said Hobbs, naming among them Reverend Al Sharpton. “I had no idea of the magnitude of the event.”

It was just a short time before the ceremony that Hobbs received the invitation. An organizer asked if she would be willing to sing the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” as the opening number. “I was actually in the hair salon when I got the phone call from Washington,” she recalls, laughing.

Though unexpected, choosing Hobbs to sing wasn’t entirely random on the part of the CBCF. In high school, Hobbs had already built quite a resume, having received the Congressional Black Caucus Spouses Heineken USA Preforming Arts Scholarship for college.  At U-M, she is also a LEAD Scholar, the Alumni Association’s  scholarship program supporting leadership, excellence, achievement, and diversity among the student body.

Hobbs described the entire evening in Washington as rushed, but unforgettable.

Back stage, before the start of the event, she saw singer Kelly Rowland and Trevor Noah from The Daily Show.

“Trevor Noah was going on after me. He said, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be fine! Just breathe.’ Which made me even more nervous!”

Following the event, Hobbs quickly made her way back to Ann Arbor and classes. Her once-in-a-lifetime experience in D.C., however, will resonate with her for a lifetime.

“I don’t think it would have felt the same if I did it next year,” she said, explaining that once she started performing her nervousness turned into a sense of pride. “It was really an honor to preform for our first black president.”


Anna Haritos is a junior studying biopsychology cognition and neuroscience, and modern Greek at U-M.

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